New Friends

Every third of July,
my family reunites on the shores
of Conesus Lake.

This year I couldn’t go.
This year I had to make new friends.

And so, Matt and I plunged
into the woods for three days,
carrying our home on our back.

Walking on the wet, earthy floor,
we dodged raindrops
and also, salamanders:
minuscule babies, full adults,
some brilliant orange,
others dulling to the color of decaying leaves.

Chipmunks popped by campsites;
squirrels and mice skipped ahead on paths.

At night, the moon glowed luminously
even as we heard a bear lumber by.

In the morning,
the birds chitchatted, some screeching,
others easing us awake with a lullaby.

At the local pond,
blue skies and warm water beckoned,
even as the local guppies
eyed our toes.
They could not be shooed away,
approaching our toes
like metal drawn to magnets.

We came up with new slogans:
As fearless as a fish.
As unflinching as a guppy.

Still,
a bald eagle soared overhead,
as our souls settled into
our bodies,
neither Matt nor I talking.

We were here:
toe-hungry fish and all.

We gulped in the forest air,
as if it could nourish our
woods-deprived bodies
in the short time we were there.

Back at camp,
I looked up at the canopy,
first to see what rain cover we had,
then to see what friend we had made.

A beech tree covered our tent
with her emerald-studded branches,
limb after limb,
as if to say,
“Don’t worry about rain.
I got your back.”

On the hike out,
we saw acquaintances
we had made this spring:
Canadian mayflowers with berries,
mountain laurels still blossoming,
trilliums with petals dropped.

New connections now flooded
the forest: Mushrooms.

Mushrooms!

The honey-hued pancake ones
drew me in like a calming work of art
that makes you dream of gluten.

Then they came in droves:
the gummy worm ones
with clear fingers and red tips,
neon red ones, neon orange ones,
domed-shaped mushrooms painted with
the same reds and yellows as McDonald’s.

Flat mushrooms enchanted us
as the looked like steps to a fairy house.

Deep violet shards stretched up
like crystals from dead logs
as oval, black shelves emanated
like frisbees from hollow trees.

Each of these gifts of fungi seemed
like a prayer
as they took
the rotting logs of the woods
and made of them
fertile compost
for new growth.

Their plea seemed to echo my own:
May the decay of the earth
be transformed
to that which brings
breathing, caring, antiracist life for all.

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